I did find myself composing another song about Enid Blyton, but sought distraction before it could be perfected. Then, while cycling home from the gym, I passed a petrol station and started involuntarily singing to an old hymn tune:
Top up, top up for Jesus
With ninety-five octane –
It may not be a dollar
Twenty-eight again . . .
Thankfully (you may say) lyrical inspiration gave way to a serious thought. People raised in the Christian tradition are often shocked by the violence that seems to be condoned in the Old Testament and the Koran. “How good it is,” they think to themselves, “that Jesus replaced that jealous, vindictive, racist Yahweh with a loving god, arranged in three neatly-fitting pieces. And what a pity it is that Mohammed conjured up that narrow-minded Allah, obsessed with rigid rules and slaughter.”
In fact all three of the Abrahamic faiths are pretty nasty if looked at closely. A Jew or a Muslim might listen to “Stand up, stand up for Jesus …” or “Onward Christian soldiers…” and look around in alarm for an approaching horde “with the cross of Jesus going on before!”
And how should Muslims react when a representative of a heavily-armed predominantly Christian nation talks of embarking upon a ‘crusade’?
All the Abrahamic faiths contain seeds of evil as well as seeds of good. At the moment the evil seeds of Islam seem to be the most numerous, or the most virulent. The murder of Charlie Hebdo staff in Paris is the latest manifestation to hit the global headlines, but atrocities are committed daily by Al Qaeda, Al-Shabab, Boko Haram and other extremist groups and individuals.
The common thread linking the Abrahamic faiths is the belief that there is only one god, and that he writes books. It’s a bizarre notion in my opinion, but that may be the subject of another post. If a god writes a book, and does not occasionally send a prophet to revise it in the light of changing circumstances, his dictates remain frozen in time. This is not a big problem if the dictates are general in nature – “Love one another” is a good example – but it is a very big problem if the god has provided a detailed manual for everyday living. This, I think, is at the heart of the problem confronting Moslems today.
I say “confronting Moslems” because the vast majority are decent, reasonable people who want the same things for themselves and their children as everyone else does. I say this confidently having lived and worked with Moslems for much of my adult life, starting with my volunteer service in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). But a decent, reasonable Moslem family may produce a child who adopts extremist ideology and commits terrible crimes. In almost all cases other family members are as mystified and horrified as their non-Moslem neighbours.
I would liken Islamist extremism to a parasite inhabiting a host, much as a the malaria parasite inhabits the mosquito population. We target the innocent mosquitoes because they bring the parasite to us. Non-Moslems must avoid targeting the whole Islamic community because it harbours the parasite of extremism. The war against extremism must be waged together.